8 scientifically proven benefits of reading good news

Illustrations of a newspaper, two people hugging, two fingers holding up a peace sign, smiley face, and a rainbow.

It’s no secret that reading good news feels a lot better than reading bad news. Like, would you rather bite into a lemon, or sip on a fresh glass of lemonade? 

But the “bad news” has its place in the world; it’s important to stay informed about world events, and we owe it to each other to be alert and engaged with what’s going on around us.

While reading traditional, more negative news is important, consuming good news is also part of staying informed, and it brings meaningful benefits, like reduced stress and anxiety, higher rates of engagement, community building skills, and inspiration for making the world a better place.

Plus, knowing what to look for in the good news landscape, why it’s important, and how it helps us is a key part of improving our media literacy skills and being thoughtful news consumers.

In fact, good news — otherwise known as solutions journalism or constructive journalism — is becoming more popular, as publishers and news stations discover the benefits of sharing stories about the stuff that’s, well, good.

Good Good Good is just one place where you can find good news, and we’re dedicated to providing that news as intentionally as we can. Our team of intrepid good news reporters and editors work daily to deliver stories that make readers feel more hopeful and equipped to do more good — and part of that means explaining why exactly that work matters. 

So, we’re here to explain a bit more about the science of good news, and what benefits it has, so you can give yourself a little pat on the back for being here — and hopefully leave with a deeper understanding of why it’s important to look for the solutions.

Why do we need good news?

It helps provide a more balanced view of the world.

Good news is not just a buffer to make us feel better about the ample stories of conflict, destruction, and corruption in the world. Good news is a vital part of how we learn about solving the world’s problems. And it’s also an antidote to our inherent negativity bias. 

Rick Hanson, a psychologist and New York Times best-selling author, explains this well in a Sounds Good podcast episode

“The brain has what’s called a negativity bias. Whereas I put it, we’ve got a brain that’s like Velcro for bad and Teflon for good,” Hanson said.

Basically, Hanson continued, over 600 million years of evolution of our human nervous systems means that we are predisposed to survival. Knowing about the bad stuff — the threats in the world — is important to keep us safe.

But the good stuff — the objectively delightful parts of humanity — is also part of what keeps us grounded in reality.

“I believe in realistic thinking with a brain that’s actually designed for negative thinking,” Hanson said. “So if you tilt toward the positive, then you end up realistic.”

These sentiments have been echoed by other good news reporters, like Angus Hervey, the editor of Future Crunch. Hervey gave an on-stage “good news bulletin” at TED 2023, rattling off exciting and substantial stories about progress around the globe.

“Imagine if this was the news,” Hervey said on stage at TED. “Along with the usual death and disaster and division, we also got to hear these — the stories of hope and healing — and not just another dog on a surfboard.” 

Part of constructive journalism is being able to clearly communicate and identify the issues in the world, while also supporting that reporting with possible solutions or stories about resilience. 

It’s not just about creating a split-second smile with something cute or funny, but to develop meaningful narratives that better depict the human experience.

“The thing is, this is the news. These stories — they’re happening,” Hervey said. “It’s just that we don’t hear as much about them. When you find them, the world can suddenly feel like a very different place.”

It reduces feelings of stress and anxiety.

Good news certainly does make the world feel like a different place, especially when it enables us to feel less stress and anxiety. 

First off, it’s important to note that the constant consumption of negative news — or as it’s often called, “doom-scrolling” — has consequences on our mental health.

“We know that watching negatively valenced news can affect everyone’s mood, making them sad or anxious depending on the nature of that news,” Graham Davey, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Sussex, told Inverse

Davey even went on to explain that this kind of news consumption can cause symptoms “very similar to post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Regularly engaging in negative news keeps cortisol levels elevated, and while those same levels can help keep us alive and safe, heightened fight-or-flight responses aren’t very good for our long-term mental and physical health.

Engaging with good news, on the other hand, can reduce anxiety and positively shift mindsets, just like any other type of positive thinking. Slowing down, looking for solutions, and considering nuance in the face of constant news feeds helps take us out of our immediate stress response. 

Experts agree. Jodie Jackson, author of the book “You Are What You Read,” told the Washington Post: “What you want is balance and perspective, which can help reduce anxiety.”

It helps you stay meaningfully engaged with current events.

Experts also attribute reading good news to helping people stay more clued into other current events, even if they aren’t as uplifting.

For example, the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Media Engagement found that stories with core components of solutions journalism helped increase readers’ interest and knowledge, as well as their intent to learn more.  

Similarly, TV stations that reported solutions journalism stories increased viewers’ loyalty, helping distinguish them from competitors. These studies show that sharing good news stories is equally good for the journalism industry — and people who want to be engaged with journalism.

“A commitment to solutions journalism doesn’t just work at the story level,” research, strategy, and design firm SmithGeiger shared in a 2020 research study about solutions journalism in TV news stations

“It also works at the personal level, in terms of level of involvement and engagement, and it differentiates the station to the point where it makes that station more desirable.”

Case studies of this impact can be tracked around the country. Take the Wichita Journalism Collaborative, for example, which partnered with a local library to offer weekly “office hours.” 

The goal was to “provide inspiration and sourcing for solutions stories that we as journalists might be distant from,” according to project manager Maren Berblinger. 

In the first few weeks of the program, community members were taking advantage of the office hours and speaking with journalists about what story topics were important to them, creating a community of engaged citizens who had a refreshed perspective on local journalism. 

It builds empathy and compassion.

As it turns out, reading about solutions and how people work to help others is a great way to build empathy, too. 

We can look at the Kansas Leadership Center Journal as a case study. The publication, which is a civil issues magazine, published a story about how a small group in Emporia, Kansas works to bridge ethnic and language differences.

The story led to an event co-hosted with the organization and the magazine, in which over 45 attendees, including some city officials, and a large fraction of the Hispanic community, expressed hope for the future of the group, according to Solutions Journalism Network.

Research shows that feelings of elevation — like witnessing another person perform a good deed — can motivate viewers to help others. While this might not necessarily refer to watching good news, it’s not a far jump to imagine that consuming uplifting stories would inspire people to act altruistically. 

Another study from the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Media Engagement asked 755 U.S. adult survey takers about their experiences interacting with solutions journalism stories. Respondents agreed with statements like “now that I’ve read this article, I think I can contribute to a solution to this problem.” 

Similarly, survey takers were asked about their likelihood of getting involved in working toward a solution, like donating to an organization, or talking to friends and family about the issue. In all cases, those who read solutions articles indicated higher likelihood than those who read “non-solutions” articles. 

It provides inspiration for others to make a positive difference in the world.

Traditional reporting on world events and tragedies often leaves people feeling hopeless and defeated, but studies show that people who read good news were more willing to sign up for generous actions related to the story when they were done reading. This could look like singing a petition or donating money to support a cause illustrated in the story. 

More generally, good news stories also show proof of concept, giving audiences facts about constructive answers to some of the world’s biggest challenges. This may even provide them with a blueprint for ways they might also make a difference.

A study from the Institute for Applied Positive Research found that solutions-focused reporting increased news readers’ problem-solving skills by 20%.

The study was conducted by providing a group of participants articles from the Detroit Free Press. One article focused on a problem, and three other articles were part of a special series about solutions to that problem. 

Participants answered questions before and after reading their assigned articles about their mood, feelings of empowerment, and connection to the community.  

Participants who read about solutions and saw the presented solutions as effective felt 12% more energized, 16% less anxious, and 18% more confident that “Detroit is getting better day by day” after reading the articles. 

“Opening the mind to the fact that others have overcome similar challenges and been successful is an effective way to catalyze positive change, as it creates a greater sense of hope and optimism,” the study shared. 

“These findings appear to provide more supporting evidence that focusing on solutions instead of merely problems leaves people feeling better and more connected to their community, as well as better positions them to take positive action.”

It can foster connection with others and build community.

Think about the kinds of things you talk about with your friends and coworkers on any given day. Maybe you’ll share some memes about a pop culture phenomenon, or you’ll complain about the traffic or the weather. If you really get into a deep conversation, you might talk about politics or global events. 

The news drives how we interact with one another, and consuming good news also impacts those connections. 

A 2016 study by Jodie Jackson at the University of East London concluded that consuming positive news can lead to increased acceptance of others and a feeling of community. 

Participants in the study were asked to read stories from a UK-based good news outlet, and many reported higher levels of cohesion, citing that they felt less isolated, had increased admiration for others, more faith in humanity, and felt more tolerant and compassionate. 

A case study from the Solutions Journalism Network makes Jackson’s study ring true. In May 2023, following the publication of a story about Afghan refugees in Manhattan, Kansas’s The Journal, newspaper publishers partnered with the Afghan Resettlement Team to host a block party and cultural celebration. 

“It really makes everyone home, everyone feels safe,” Fatima Jaghoori, one of the event organizers, said in an article by another local publication

It improves heart health.

Now, reading good news probably won’t positively impact your cardiovascular health as much as, say, regular exercise or a balanced diet, but it is a means to reducing stress — which improves heart health.

A 2018 study by Laura Kubzansky, of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and colleagues, found that good psychological well-being has cardiovascular benefits, as people with a positive outlook are more inclined to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Researchers were clear in their analysis that while most people desire a healthy lifestyle, access to a healthy lifestyle is inequitable, as folks may not be able to obtain nutritious foods or do not have the time or freedom to pursue daily exercise. It was also difficult to take into account the feelings, aspirations, or context of every individual who was analyzed in the study.

But the study also indicated that there are ways to improve cardiovascular health in ways outside of diet and exercise — like through positive psychology. And optimism is an abundant resource found in good news.

“A novel approach to promoting cardiovascular health can draw from research on optimism, which has been identified as a modifiable, upstream psychological resource that is related to improved cardiovascular outcomes,” Kubzansky’s study shared.

It provides us with a sense of purpose and direction.

Hope and optimism don’t just feel good; they are productive feelings that often encourage us to do something or look forward to something.

Reading negative news — or even movies that make us cry — often come from a ‘eudaimonic’ desire, which means we pursue these stories because they help us make meaning of the world around us. 

But researchers also believe that “sad stories with happy endings,” or problems with solutions, can also help humans scratch that meaning-making itch. 

It’s called “excitation transfer” when we feel distress about a person or character who is disadvantaged, but we have a positive response to their “happy ending,” or an effective solution to their problem.

Being able to follow the arc from problem to solution — whether in fact-based reporting or beloved fictional tales — allows positive emotions like joy, contentment, pride, and interest to bloom.

A 2018 study on the emotional impact of constructive news examines how these positive emotions result in other behaviors. For instance, joy is associated with a tendency of “free activation,” or a readiness to engage in new activities. 

Pride, on the other hand, creates a willingness “to share achievements and envision greater achievements in the future.”

All of these feelings contribute to a positive vision for the future, and the confidence and purpose required to get there. Cathrine Gyldensted, a leader in the constructive journalism movement, was interviewed in the 2018 study.

“Constructive news is meant to build people up — not just the audience, but journalists and their sources, as well,” she said. “Constructive news stories should leave people feeling energized.”

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February 9, 2024 7:39 AM
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